GBONOTA, Bong County – Health workers in Bong County have submitted a petition to the Ministry of Health and county authorities, demanding justice for the unlawful flogging of Alison Kollie, the Officer-in-Charge (OIC) of Gbonota Clinic by a group of people allegedly on the instruction of Rep. Josiah Marvin Cole (District #3, Bong County). Rep. Cole has denied the allegation.
By: Albert M. Fania, Contributing Writer
In a bid to amplify their demands, the health workers have also threatened to go on a stay-home strike if appropriate actions are not taken to address their concerns.
“We want to use this medium to announce the withdrawal of our service from November 15, 2023 if the fate of our colleague is not established and perpetrators be brought to book and adequate protection is given to all health workers throughout the facilities. It is very important that we send a very strong message that violence against healthcare workers and other peaceful people is not, and should not be tolerated in our district or society,” the health workers said in a petition presented to Health Minister Wilhelmina Jallah.
The incident is said to have unfolded on Saturday November 4, 2023 in Gbonota, Bong County District #4 when Representative Cole visited Gbonota Clinic.
The health workers, outraged by the inhumane treatment of their colleague, argued that such acts of violence against healthcare professionals not only undermine their morale, but also compromise the quality of healthcare services provided to the community.
The petition calls for a thorough investigation into the matter and for appropriate legal action to be taken against those responsible. In addition to seeking justice, the health workers have threatened to go on a stay-home strike if their demands are not met.
The petition also highlights the need for improved security measures within healthcare facilities to protect healthcare workers from such incidents in the future. It emphasizes that the safety and well-being of health workers are paramount in ensuring the effective delivery of healthcare services to the community.
According to them, this measure is necessary to draw attention to the urgent need for the protection of healthcare workers and to ensure that incidents like these are not repeated in the future.
“I’m with you in this fight”
In response, Health Minister Dr. Jallah acknowledged receipt of the petition and promised to stand by them to ensure justice is served. The Minister revealed that she visited Kollie at the hospital and when she greeted him, he responded with a thumb-up. She mentioned that doctors working on him said they have completed all of his tests including CT scan and X-ray and will submit the results soon.
She said the situation has caught the attention of several officials including Vice President Jewel Howard Taylor who is expected to lead a delegation to Gbonota to further assured the health workers that justice will be served.
She has also assured the health workers that appropriate actions will be taken against any individual found guilty of perpetrating the unlawful act.
She said: “He [victim Kollie] has received all of his tests – CT scan, X-ray, and every test that they could positively do for him and they are compiling his results. The concern for the healthcare workers in Bong county is on our mind. But we have to leave it to the justice system to handle the matter. I received this petition and will submit it to the Vice President, and as the group come tomorrow we will look into it. Be assure that I am all along with you in this fight. But we have to give the justice system the chance to do its work.”
Meanwhile, representatives from various healthcare associations and organizations have expressed their solidarity with the health workers in Bong County.
They called on the government to prioritize the safety and well-being of healthcare professionals, emphasizing that their dedication and sacrifice should not be met with violence or intimidation.
Rep. Cole’s history of violence
Rep. Cole, who was re-elected in the just ended October 10 polls, has been accused on several occasions of misusing his power as a lawmaker to intimidate peaceful citizens.
In March this year, he was heard in a video bragging that he ordered the flogging of several citizens of his district in a bid to drive the demons out of them.
In February, some local dwellers of Gbarnga alleged that Rep. Cole ordered his men to brutalize them on grounds that they obstructed his movement as a sitting lawmaker by closing the motor road leading to his Cotton Tree residence.
The victims said the road in question passed through a land belonging to one Joseph K. Binda whose house they were constructing, but Rep. Cole allegedly ordered them to stop the construction project and demanded them to show documents of the land substantiating their claims. In the process, he ordered his men to flog them unmercifully, the said.
Rep. Cole denied the allegation earlier. However, speaking at an event in Bong County on few weeks later, he admitted to ordering the beating of Binda and his children because they defied him and it was his way of teaching them a lesson.
Binda and his children, he said, were possessed by evil spirits that were controlling them to misbehave, as the result, he ordered their flogging to drive the demons out them.
Justifying his decision, the controversial Bong County lawmaker added that his action was similar to Jesus Christ in the Bible when he flogged and drove the merchants from the Temple.
Like the merchants, he said Binda and his children have learned their lessons and will not repeat their actions against him anymore.
“When the children went and took market and carried to Jesus Christ’s house. What he did? He took the switch and whipped the devil out of them. He never rebuked them, he flogged them. Jesus was teaching us that certain demon doesn’t require rebuking. Take the switch and whipped the devil out of them,” he said.
“Do you think that man able to go back to my house’s road and say he is closing the road,” Cole asked his friendly audience as they answered “No, he can never.”
Also, in January 2022, rep. Cole was accused of ordering his men to beat journalist Bettie Mbayo, her husband Dr. Moses Mbayo and the principal of St. Simon Baptist school for parking in his driveway. The incident happened when the trio had gone to sympathize with a bereaved friend near Rep. Cole’s residence in Duport Road, Paynesville.
However, the couple were ruled guilty by the Paynesville Magisterial Court after the lawmaker sued them. They complained of unfair judgment and filed for an appeal, but later a settlement was reached.